“the essence of the present moment is the confrontation between democracy and authoritarianism”‘Russia announced the fight against global autocracy’ – Konstantin Kosachev, Izvestia newspaper
The most vocal and actively aggressive of nations which, in name at least, are supporters and proponents of ‘democracy’ (however that may be defined) must surely be seen to be those of the so-called ‘western’ nations located in Europe and, in particular, those of the anglo-saxon or english speaking variety, scattered there and more widely in other parts of the globe.
But do these nations actually embody and exhibit the precepts, principles and ideology – since an ideology it is (hence the divergence and confusion surrounding it), and I struggle to find a single word to cover all of the things it is said to be – of democracy? My answer to that question would be in the negative. In fact, it is my belief and observation that the exact opposite is the truth. These western nations operate a system that is more in keeping with the autocratic or authoritarian standpoint. For these nations, the term ‘democracy’ is simply a cover story to hide their true condition. I also think there is a growing perception of these things more broadly emerging around the world.
I do not intend to define here what I think democracy may be. That would, if it were possible to define, divert from what I do want to say. But I will say this: Democracy is not a system, a way of life or a country (or group of countries). It is, at a basic level, a political ideology. Nothing more. So to claim to be a ‘democracy’, or to talk of ‘our democracy’ as though that were a thing, is quite ludicrous. No single country or group of countries ‘own’ democracy. It is, if anything, a universal concept – available to all, but not to be shoved down people’s throats, with or without informed consent. Especially by folk who think of it as being a way of life, and in particular ‘their’ way of life.
Are there then any true democracies to be found in any parts of the world? Well, yes there are, and China is one of them. China is perhaps the closest example to a democratic state we have, when judged fairly and with some real understanding of the subject (understanding which is not automatically conferred on those living in a supposed democracy). I wrote about this in the past, here and here, and I don’t intend to repeat myself. It is your choice whether to review those points or not, for yourself.
I know that President Putin of Russia is also well aware of authoritarianism disguised as democracy. He made that clear in his recent speeches, which I have not commented on because, well, there is enough already. But I do believe his September 30 speech is one of the most important of the century so far.
Enough from me. Touching on Mr Putin’s speech and therefore on what I have been discussing here, which was only, in reality, meant as an introduction to the article below, is a piece by Izvestia reporter Konstantin Kosachev which I think encapsulates all I would also want to say. So I will let him do the talking, and as a matter of respect for the work (from which the quote at the head of my piece came), and because I know it is often the case that an external work is more likely to be read if placed in-line, I am going to include it here in full. I would prefer you to visit the News Front site (where lots of other good writings may catch your eye and I haven’t been able to ascertain whether the story was used by Izvestia itself, or other news outlets) but read it here if you must (and don’t forget it is a translation)…
Let me just note that I very much like that the author uses the term ‘polycentric’ in relation to polarisation among global communities. I have a dislike for ‘multi-polar’ just as much as ‘unipolar’ (how is two or more masters any better than only one master?). ‘Polycentric’ [multiple centres – or an absence of ‘poles’] is a much better description for peace and harmony. And even though it is recognised that there will always be a disparity of size and power among communities, this does not speak of the dominance of points, peaks or poles.
On September 30, the world heard the historic speech of the President of Russia. On a scale close to the one that I could hear with my own eyes in Munich in 2007
History is being made before our eyes, but if for us these are symbolic acts, then for those who voted for the return to the bosom of Russia, this, without exaggeration, is the choice of a lifetime. Not geopolitics, but deeply personal history. And so I would like to express admiration for the courage and strength of all those who came and voted for Russia. They were hated, they were killed, they were denied the right to vote, but today they are the winners.
But, of course, the battle for the future is not over. Russia has taken responsibility for the new citizens, but the conflict goes far beyond Russian-Ukrainian relations. I will express some paradoxical thoughts.
First, the authors of the past referendums are not in the Kremlin, but in Kyiv. Russia absolutely sincerely tried to stick to the Minsk agreements, persuaded people in Donbass not to follow the conflict path, although the results of the referendum showed what the true attitude of people was towards this. Yes, it was a very difficult choice for us, but for eight years we have consistently tried to give Kyiv and its patrons a chance to fulfill the letter of the Minsk agreements. But it turned out that these obligations became an unbearable burden not for Donetsk and Lugansk, but for the post-Maidan authorities in Ukraine.
However, the Ukrainian theme is just an episode in the grandiose geopolitical changes that our President spoke about in his September 30 speech. And here is another paradox: the West is absolutely right when it claims that the essence of the present moment is the confrontation between democracy and authoritarianism. The problem is that he positions himself on the wrong side, on which he actually turned out to be. The conflict between the multipolar (or, more correctly, polycentric) and unipolar worlds is precisely the confrontation between democracy and dictatorship.
Another thesis in which we must agree with Western leaders is that Russia is an existential threat to the West. But not to residents of the EU or the US, namely the undivided dominance of the West. We must make it clear to people in the EU and the US that if they are not masters and dictators, this does not mean at all that the world will collapse and the barbarians will destroy them.
But Russia has made its choice: we are for democracy, we are not afraid of competition, differences in the concepts of the model of the world, in the coexistence of different civilizations and ideas about the world order. The Chinese, Indian, Brazilian, Indonesian, Saudi, Israeli, Turkish ideas about what an ideal world order should look like do not “annoy” us at all. All these views can be reduced to the same denominator, since they do not imply a global autocracy. As opposed to the “rules-based order”, which is not ready to recognize the right of other states to participate in the writing of these rules.
On our part, there is no resentment at all that we were “not taken to the West”, but, for example, Ukraine was taken. Today they are trying to make this almost the central point of what is happening: they want to portray the Ukrainian skull as more European than the Russian one. But since September 30, “Europeanness” has ceased to be the standard and the meaning of the existence of nations. Either you live for self-development, or you enter into the constitution that you are not an independent nation, but a voluntary colony that takes its Stockholm syndrome with delight.
Now the remnants of sane people in the West are trying to think about why Russia, relatively speaking, could not be integrated into the collective West. After all, it was simple, and cheap, and profitable, and safe. Well, after all, everyone already understood that the advantages of many countries rested on the cheap resources of the country, which was disgustedly called a gas station. That the security of Europe cannot be built on the expansion of one military bloc, and that the humiliation of the Russians has limits. Was it really necessary to start a military operation so that it would reach everyone?
But let’s think about the price of Russia’s entry into the West in the new century. Not at the end of the twentieth century, but right now. This was radically different from the situation when we went to the Council of Europe in the 1990s, for example. After all, in the 21st century to enter “Europe” means:
– recognition of the equal responsibility of the USSR and Hitler’s Germany for the Second World War;
– recognition of the “occupation” of Eastern Europe after the end of World War II;
– recognition of all anti-Soviet and anti-Russian interpretations of history (“famines”, genocides, occupations, annexations), including the latest (color revolutions, events in the Caucasus in 2008, Transnistria, Ukraine);
– consent to the expansion of NATO, including Ukraine and, in the future, Belarus;
– consent to the violation of the rights of Russians, not as a general case of a clear violation of the rights of national minorities, but as a special category (“heirs of the invaders”, etc.);
– rejection of equal partnership in the economy (the buyer dictates the rules, and this did not start now, but even with the third “energy package” of the EU).
All this at some stage made the integration of Russia to the Wes” without loss of identity and without fatal victims of the interests of the unacceptable, first technically (NATO), and then psychologically. Therefore, the West, by turning Eastern European phobias into a common doctrine, has effectively deprived Russians of a choice, making rapprochement possible only through humiliation. And today the EU is completely self-destructively fighting for the interests of the Anglo-Saxons, not having a chance to get out of this trap into which it was driven by foreign forces.
Is there a way out of this impasse? Of course it is. But it is very unpleasant for self-esteem. The West lives in victories. And here we have to admit that victory is impossible, and, more importantly, democracy will win. The unipolar world will one day die, not because someone is against the West, but because everyone wants a democratic world order. Not “an order built on rules”, but an order built on law, which even the “chosen” nations will have to obey.
The point is not that Russia has challenged the system, but that the system has ceased to suit everyone. Nothing personal. If for Ukraine this is probably the first battle for dependence in the history of mankind, then for all non-Western humanity what is at stake is the right of each nation to go its own way, to live by its own rules, without regard to those who write the rules for themselves.
The defeat of the “axis” in 1945 became the basis for the creation of the UN and the writing of its charter – a set of rules by which humanity was going to live, not recognizing the exclusivity of individual nations. Today, it feels like we are on the verge of events of the same magnitude. Therefore, most of the people of the “non-golden billion” pin their hopes on Russia. Our victory is their chance to finally live in a post-colonial world.
Konstantin Kosachev, Izvestia newspaper